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Looking for advice from those with experience please(11 Posts)
I have name changed for this as I am interested in opinions but it's going to need me to divulge a lot of detail, so... technically not fostering but I am hoping this is the best place for such a complicated issue.
TLDR: twin nieces with troubled family history need somewhere to live permanently and I am considering taking them on despite 4 young children of my own. What advice/considerations do those with experience have?
The long story:
I am a SAHP to 4DC, 6yo, 3yo, 9mo twins. I have 8yo nieces (twins). All children get on well.
Currently I manage well with my 4. It's busy but not too chaotic (usually)! OH earns a good salary and his work is unaffected by corona.
My nieces' mum (SIL) never wanted them but due to a highly religious family, did not seek an abortion when she got pregnant. She was a single mum, dad is a guy who is lovely but has significant MH problems and is unable to be a reliable father. He visits a few times a year (lives abroad) but is in contact often with the girls.
SIL moved back in with PIL when she had the girls and avoided doing pretty much everything, bar feeding and changing the babies (even then...) It was left mostly to MIL to care for them. Eventually MIL found it too much and asked SIL to move out when girls were 5. She decided to move abroad to MIL's home country to live with grandPIL. After only a few months, she was asked to leave and get state accommodation as they couldn't cope with the extra work of looking after her plus the twins (they are in their 90s and SIL does nothing around the house and hands off all child-related responsibilities at every opportunity).
SIL and nieces moved into state accommodation and things seemed to be ok for a few months, with grandPIL keeping tabs on them. This was until the week before Christmas where MIL got a phone call from 7yo granddaughter saying there were some men round and she thinks mummy is dead in the flat. Horrendous. She had taken a drugs overdose, but was ok after hospital treatment. The men were friends and often over, with girls left to occupy themselves in their room. We don't know how long this went on for, but children were immediately removed from SIL and flown back to the UK to stay with PIL with mum in rehab. (SIL has not expressed remorse for this, and some other issues brought to light by all this)
She has since left rehab but PIL have been waiting for her to ask after arrangements for the girls. She has no job (never has) and will be made homeless soon as she won't get her allowance for the children anymore. She hasn't bothered to get in touch with PIL about arrangements for their return, despite speaking every week or so, and they have become primary carer for the girls. This arrangement worked ok until ~March where FIL was diagnosed with cancer. He is mid-70s and undergoing aggressive treatment and MIL is understandably finding things incredibly hard, especially as girls have not found a local school place so in addition to caring for FIL and the children during a pandemic, she is also home schooling in her second language (in a curriculum new to the girls as their school has now stopped supporting home learning since term started)
Sorry for all that context but I have tried to be as concise as I can. So onto my question:
Our local school has space for the girls. I feel we have capacity to take them, just about (though it will obviously be v hard work). However, I am acutely aware of the effect this could have on my children, especially as the girls are likely not to have come out of this unscathed.
While we are considering what's best for everyone involved, I am interested in anyone's thoughts who has experience with a large family, similar family issues, taking on anything similar really to hear what considerations you'd make in our shoes to help us make the best choice we can.
From our experience, you are going to run in to the following issues.
Even if you are very suitable and you know it is the best and safest place for the girls, if one of their parents fights for custody even after everything you have mentioned, they will be given priority. You would only be a consideration if after multiple opportunities, they can't show that they are capable of keeping the children safe.
Even then it is up to social services to prove that, we have had children who's parents where doing something they shouldn't. We knew it, social services knew it, but the children where going to go back to their parents until it was proven.
If they are not suitable, you and any other family will be able to come forward and try to either adopt or have them on an sgo. To do this you will have to go through an approval process where they check your history, finances and family network. It is intrusive, but if you understand that it is just to protect the children, it's not so bad.
When we went in to fostering we had young children of our own. One was a baby but the other was 6 and we talked every step through with her, to make sure she was happy to do it.
However she found out, the reality is far different from the idea of helping children. She was always great with young children and babies, but older children especially with bad behaviour was difficult for her. She has never said she doesn't want to foster anymore, but once she said she didn't want long term placements with one particularly difficult child.
That child is now in long term placement with us, her behaviour is almost perfect and they consider themselves sisters. Our daughter would now be absolutely devastated if she was to leave.
The final thing to consider is that when children are removed from parents it can be very damaging, with many children blaming themselves or thinking that they have done something wrong no matter how many times you tell them they haven't. In most cases it is best to promote contact with parents, even if you don't think much of them.
Whilst I appreciate your feelings towards mum are perfectly understandable, it is still their mum and the place they feel safe even if you know better. You may have to be civil with her for the sake of the children going forward.
I don't want to say this is or isn't right for you, only you know that. The fact that you think a 6yo, 3yo & 9mo twins is busy but not too chaotic, makes me think we should be asking you for advice, not the other way around.
@Tacca thank you for such an in-depth reply. You have helped to confirm some of my main concerns - chiefly the possibility of the girls yo-yo-ing back to their mum, as it will affect them greatly, but also my own children. SIL is incredibly indecisive and generally apathetic towards any child-based decisions (perfect example being her having spent no time thinking about arrangements for the girls now, and having no strong feelings either way) so I can see her wanting to dip in and out of their lives a lot, which I think we will all find difficult. I am confident that dad will not seek custody. He was devastated when this all came about as he was not able to step in for them. He loves them very much but is keenly aware of his limitations. As long as he is still in regular contact, I am certain he will be happy with whatever arrangements are made, provided the girls are happy and safe.
My other concern is the heritability of dad's MH issues. He had an appalling upbringing, which will have confounded any predispositions, but I am aware the girls could have similar issues which will begin to manifest in their teens. I think it would be irresponsible of me to dismiss this concern out of hand as it could greatly affect my own family if they do. Do you know if there is support available to delve into this before we make a decision?
As for my 4 currently, I don't think I do anything special to reduce the chaos, other than keeping organised and never sitting down . They are great kids, so that helps me through the hard days. DH is quite hands on when he's not working, so the bottlenecks of morning and evening are much less stressful than they would otherwise be. He was at a funeral abroad a couple of months ago and I had all 4 on my own - I really learnt to appreciate him that week!
Social services are absolutely amazing at supporting you with children that need it. There are many courses available for free for specific issues to help you deal with it, plus one on one help for the child including psychologists if needed. The social workers themselves are very knowledgeable and are always at the other end of the phone.
Children are very resilient and with support, it amazes you what they can come through. They are still very young and I would be surprised if mental health was an issue going forward, if you took them on and gave them everything they need.
Whilst the mother may show no interest at the moment, it may change if someone tells her she may not get her children back. We are fortunate as most parents see social services as the bad people who took their child away, but that may not be the case for you.
Anger that someone may take your child away, that people think you aren't a good mum, what people may think of you if your children were taken, a lack of trust in others or just motherly instinct may be a trigger for her to actually start being a mum. Of course that wouldn't be a bad thing, but may at any point in the approval process stop you being able to care for the children.
It is one of the hardest things about fostering, having to sit back and wait for the car crash. Knowing what is best for a child, but having to wait for the parents to mess up chance after chance and watching the children suffer, whilst waiting to pick up the pieces.
Gosh that last paragraph rings so true. We've been watching it happen since before they were born. There was almost relief alongside the horror when SIL finally did something which would be noticed by authorities as opposed to just constant low-level neglect, covered for by other family members. It surprised me at first that there was nothing stopping her from having them back with her as soon as she finished her 6 weeks rehab, without any further checks for them/her unless something else went wrong.
My dad was adopted as a baby from a 14 year old mother and a 37 year old father, both of whom were drug users. Although not the fault of my grandmother, I am glad that he and his brother (yet more twins) were removed from her care fairly quickly. It wasn't for another 8 years (and 2 more pregnancies) that she started to seek help and take an interest in being a mother to her further children. It seems things have changed a lot since then when it comes to trying to keep a family together. A very difficult balance to strike, I'm sure.
It's really good to hear that there is plenty of support for the girls, should it become necessary. The courses sound really helpful too. It sounds like we would be very well supported were we to take them on.
I might ask DH to speak to his sister about all this tbh. His family is mostly trying to avoid talking about it, much like they dealt with the pregnancy and parenting issues from the get-go, so nobody has had a (non-judgemental) conversation with her about what she wants. I think PIL in particular always hoped she'd just suddenly take to having them if she was their mother for long enough when it became apparent that their arrival didn't invoke much of a mothering instinct. I hope, regardless of outcome, having someone who is happy to talk/listen will be of help to her.
OP you sound amazing you really do. Just to sound a note of caution based on Just my experience with the system - there is rarely psychological help when necessary , there was barely social workers at one point. It was very much families left to fend for themselves until placements broke down. Also, it is far cheaper for a LA to ask you to take on the care of the twins as kinship caters or on a SGO but there is much less available to you in the way of support.
The previous poster must live in a far better resources area than mine.
Best of luck
Absolutely no support from my local authority. In fact, the last time I reached out I was told i would be contacted. Still waiting months later
Oh and you get measly financial support.
I think we would be ok financially, even with no state support. The girls' dad sends maintenance payments every month, which will help. And, on months where he is unable to work, we will be able to cover the deficit, though it will inevitably be tighter. I will be returning to work once my youngest are at nursery (I work my own hours, so childcare costs are no issue), so it will only be something we have to worry about for the next couple of years, I hope.
We have been in touch with SIL and MIL and there are some concerns surrounding our parenting style compared to theirs (mainly with regard to transparency surrounding the living situation) which we are working through at the moment. We are all keen for whatever decision to be the right one in order to minimise disruption for the girls, so we will see where we get to.
Hello, For some areas you may just have too many children. In Hampshire not supposed to have more than 5. However, because you are family it may be okay. I make some provisional enquires. Good luck.
Started fostering as a connective career last Easter to my 15 year old granddaughter. My youngest daughter also become a connective career to her siblings ages 3 7 9. And her own daughter age 8. She is also a single mum. So we have the 4 children between us. There own mum is my eldest daughter who didn’t want them anymore. Mostly due to having a new mani her life. Drugs etc. There own dad comited suicide the month before coming to us. So much trauma and abuse. We don’t seem to get a lot of support from the social. And they keep changing
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